Tech joins campaign to end student suicides

Photo by Sara Schmitt

The Division of Student Life and Tech’s Counseling Center are leading a suicide prevention initiative, Tech Ends Suicide Together. This initiative is inspired by an international movement, ZEROSuicide, which focuses on the reduction of suicide and better care for those who seek help. Tech Ends Suicide Together aims to educate students about how to assist their peers who may be considering suicide or struggling with mental health problems.

Along with campuses across the country, the success of Tech’s initiative will be measured by keeping the numbers of students committing suicide below the national average, about 1.6 percent according to the  2015 National College Health Assessment.

To achieve this goal, Tech Ends Suicide Together will engage students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni. Campus colleagues and stakeholders will become campus caregivers, or Ambassadors, that will provide programs and services that reduce risk factors associated with suicide.

“A key element of the initiative is the recognition that while we all have a responsibility to do suicide prevention work, those efforts may look different for different members of the Georgia Tech community given their experience, roles, and expertise,” said Dr. Lacy Currie, coordinator of Suicide Prevention and Crisis Response for the Georgia Tech Counseling Center. “I am particularly excited as I imagine the role of Georgia Tech students. Students are often the most informed about the well-being of their peers and are in a unique position to help and support one another. Our students also have the creativity and drive to establish innovative programs and services with the mission of ending suicide at Tech. I strongly believe they have the capability to propel this initiative forward and transform our campus.”

The initiative focuses on a continuum of care and prevention: primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary prevention includes programs that prevent suicide from occurring. Secondary prevention is care that occurs after an attempted or completed suicide. Tertiary prevention is long-term and addresses the effects of suicide or attempted suicide.

Tech Ends Suicide Together provides information about identifying suicide risk factors and warning signs. Students can also read more about how to help a friend or loved one who may be thinking about suicide on the initiative’s website. Adapted from the national initiative ZEROSuicide, Tech’s program has seven core components: lead, train, identify, engage, treat, transition, and improve. Each of these core components has an associated goal. For example, lead calls for the establishment of a leadership group to lead the initiative, while train includes training a network of faculty to assist with the program.

This network must then identify those at risk for suicide and establish a way to engage those students. Counseling centers and campus psychiatrists will then treat those students and transition them away from suicidal ideation. Finally, the initiative must improve campus culture and create a positive environment for students’ mental health.

The Tech Ends Suicide Together Initiative is not just a campaign, said Currie. “It’s a progressive leap forward for our community in doing something that the nation as a whole still struggles to do: boldly proclaiming that we will talk about suicide and we will work together to end it.”

In a video for the initiative, students discuss the definition of the word, “ubuntu”, which translates to “I am because we are”. The initiative aims to unite all of Tech’s students and build a culture of kindness for those struggling with mental health issues. Students can engage in the campaign with the hashtag #JacketsEndingSuicide.

Many faculty and administrators are involved in the campaign’s Implementation Team, including representatives from Admissions, Athletics, Housing, Facilities, Campus Ministries and GTPD. Multiple students from Student Government and the student Mental Health Coalition are also assisting. National Suicide Prevention Week is September 5-11.